Saturday, January 07, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

Yesterday I wrote a little bit on my uncertainties about cessationism- the doctrine stating that Spiritual gifts of a miraculous kind have ceased (i.e. speaking in tongues, healing, etc.). I take the position of open but highly cautious. So in a sense I lean towards cessationism though without having any concrete, definitive, affirmations that this doctrine is true. In another sense I am open to miraculous works of the Spirit today, though I am cautious about excepting all professions of His work as credible. This has led me to think a little about that group with which I am most familiar, the cessationist camp, and to ask some hard questions of those individuals. Top on my list of questions is, "Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?"

I wish I could take credit for asking such a question, but, alas, I cannot. For the question is really the title of a book by Daniel B. Wallace, a cessationist who is wondering the same things I am: why are cessationists so terrified to speak about the subjective spiritual experience. I know of course that partly the answer has to do with the number of professions of such subjective spiritual experiences that are both ridiculous and contrary to Scripture. My tendency to be cautious towards the acceptance of miracles today is in part due to this problem. There are far to many Benny Hinns in the world for all professions of miraculous power to be taken seriously. Not to mention the numerous absurd statements about spiritual working that come from certain charismatic and pentecostal leaders. Nonetheless there is a tendency, especially in Baptist circles, to refuse to talk about the subjective spiritual experiences that the Bible clearly speaks of. It is a fear or suspicion of anything emotional.

The results of this un-biblical fear, however, have been devestating to the experiential nature of our relationship with God. An over emphasis on the rantionalistic can, and will, lead to a depersonalization of God. Wayne Grudem (while I know that Grudem is a continuationist and that quoting him to speak about cessationists may be in bad taste, his words are applicable) has said, "I don't know that that is representative of all of cessationism but there is a segment of the cessationist community that is so suspicious of any emotional component, any subjective component in all of our relationship with God and with others that it tends to quench a vital aspect of the personal relationship with God in the lives of ordinary believers. And that can tend to a dry orthodoxy in the next generation that abandons that faith and the church spiritually becomes dry and static, and I'm concerned about that" (from an interview on ).

This is good for us to all consider, whether we are cessationist, continuationists, or completely clueless. The Puritans had a good balance when it comes to this issue. They were most definately a group of sincere intellectual investigation. Men and women were never permitted to be members of a church simply by a quick profession of spiritual experience. They were often put through a questioning and then there lives were observed for a time to examine if their professed faith met up with their lived life. Yet they were certain of the Spirit's personal involvement in their lives. They were deeply Spiritual and emotional people. Their language reflects a deep emotion that is missing from most Christian's prayers and confessions of God today.

Whether you beleive that miraculous Spiritual gifts still exist today or not, it is of the utmost importance that while you guard your family and church from the silliness of some professions, that you do not make God out to be less than the personal, loving, and completely involved friend of the Christian that the Bible has identified Him to be. In other words: No Christian should fear the Holy Spirit.


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